Shaken Baby Syndrome

When you become aware you are feeling frustrated or angry, always stop, think and handle the baby with care.

Never shake a baby!

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe very serious injuries that can occur if a baby is shaken. Shaking causes the baby's brain to bounce back and forth inside the skull, resulting in bleeding and swelling in and around the brain and behind the eyes. Damage from Shaken Baby Syndrome can be severe and long lasting.

Common injuries include:

  • Brain damage
  • Permanent disabilities like blindness or paralysis
  • Fractures of the ribs and bones
  • Injuries as a result of the baby falling hard against an object such as the mattress or floor
  • Death. Approximately 25 to 30 per cent of SBS victims die

Infant crying is the most common trigger for Shaken Baby Syndrome

  • Never shake a baby even for a moment
  • Never use physical discipline when caring for a baby or child (e.g. spanking, slapping or shaking)
  • Learn how to deal with your feelings of exhaustion, frustration and anger
  • Know all caregivers and talk with them about what to do when the baby cries

Risks continue to age five

Compared with adults and older children, babies have fragile, undeveloped brains. Babies' heads are heavy and their neck muscles are weak; that is why their heads have to be supported in the early months of life.

The younger the child, the greater the risk because their brains and bodies have not yet fully developed. However, there have been Shaken Baby Syndrome victims as old as five years old.

Any child under the age of five is at risk. Within this age group, children between two and eight months are most at risk of being shaken.

The most common reason people give for shaking a baby is that the baby would not stop crying. Read more about infant crying.

Shaking a baby is child abuse

Shaken Baby Syndrome, with or without injury, is a form of child abuse. When it is suspected, it will be investigated by the police because it is a form of assault which is a criminal offence in Canada. It will also be investigated by a child welfare authority because all the children in the same environment may be in need of protection.*

Note: If you suspect a child may be suffering from SBS, it is very important that a doctor sees the child immediately!

*Adapted with the permission of Public Health Agency of Canada and reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2007. Joint Statement on Shaken Baby Syndrome

Sources of information and help


Caring for Kids

Best Start - scroll down to Shaken Baby Syndrome - handout available in multiple languages

Phone Help

Telehealth Ontario (24 hours): 1-866-797-0000

Region of Waterloo Public Health: 519-575-4400 


Contact Public Health's Resource Centre for the following videos:
Calming the Baby (Orangeville: McIntyre Media, 2003) 
When Your Baby Cries: a survival guide for parents (Oakville: Magic Lantern, 2002)


Contact Public Health's Resource Centre for:

The Fussy Baby: how to bring out the best in your high-need child., by William Sears (Schaumburg, Ill. La Leche League International, 2002)